Microsoft forecasts the Next Great Disruption as Hybrid Work

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Microsoft Corp announced the findings from its first annual Work Trend Index.

Titled “The Next Great Disruption is Hybrid Work – Are We Ready?” the report uncovers seven hybrid work trends every business leader needs to know as we enter this new era of work.

The report indicates that business leaders should resist the urge to see hybrid work like business as usual.

The world is on the brink of disruption as great as last year’s sudden shift to remote work: the move to hybrid — a blended model where some employees return to the workplace and others continue to work from home. Adapting to this new hybrid model will require rethinking of long-held assumptions. The choices you make today will impact your organization for years to come. It’s a moment that requires clear vision and a growth mindset. These decisions will impact everything from how you shape culture, to how you attract and retain talent, to how you can better foster collaboration and innovation.

Rosalind Quek, General Manager, Modern Workplace, Microsoft Asia.

The last year has fundamentally changed the nature of work and shows that we are on the cusp of workplace disruption.

The study revealed the following trends among the workforce in Asia, Australia and New Zealand, and Japan:

  • More likely to change professional paths: 47 percent of workers in Asia are likely to consider changing employers (versus the 41 percent global average) and 56 percent are likely to consider a career change (versus the 44 percent global average). In Japan, this number is much lower, with only 38% of workers likely to consider changing employers within the year.
  • More connected with co-workers: 35 percent of workers in Asia experienced decreased interactions with co-workers (versus the 40 percent global average).
  • More free to be their authentic selves: 55 percent of remote workers in Asia and 50 percent in Australia and New Zealand say they are more likely to be their authentic selves at work compared to last year (versus the 44 percent global average).
  • More productive but exhausted and stressed: While 63 percent of workers in Japan say their productivity levels have remained the same compared to last year (versus the 40 percent global average), 48 percent of workers are feeling exhausted (versus 39 percent global average) and 45 percent feeling stressed (versus the 42 percent global average).
  • More employers prioritize work-life balance: 61 percent of workers in Australia and New Zealand think that their employer cares about their work-life balance (versus the 50 percent global average).
  • People are more likely to move now they can work remotely: 50% of remote workers in Australia and New Zealand are likely to move to a new location because they can now work remotely (versus 46% globally).

To help organizations through the transition, the 2021 Work Trend Index outlines findings from a study of more than 30,000 people in 31 countries and analyses trillions of aggregate productivity and labor signals across Microsoft 365 and LinkedIn.

It also includes perspectives from experts who have studied collaboration, social capital, and space design at work for decades.

Seven global hybrid work trends every business leader needs to know

One thing is abundantly clear: Microsoft is urging businesses to recognize that work is no longer bound to traditional notions of time and space when it comes to how, when, and where we work.

  1. Flexible work is here to stay: 73 percent of workers surveyed want flexible remote work options to continue, while at the same time, 67 percent are craving more in-person time with their teams.
  2. Leaders are out of touch with employees and need a wake-up call: Research shows that 61 percent of leaders say they are thriving right now – 23 percentage points higher than those without decision-making power.
  3. High productivity is masking an exhausted workforce: Fifty-four percent feel overworked. Thirty-nine percent feel exhausted. Australia and China were the only two countries where weekly meeting time didn’t triple YOY.
  4. Gen Z is at risk and will need to be re-energized: Sixty percent of this generation — those between the ages of 18 and 25 — say they are merely surviving or flat-out struggling.
  5. Shrinking networks are endangering innovation: Aggregate trends across billions of Microsoft Teams meetings and Outlook emails show interactions with our broader networks diminished with the move to remote work
  6. Authenticity will spur productivity and well-being: Coworkers leaned on each other in new ways to get through the last year. 1 in 6 (17 percent) has cried with a colleague, especially those in healthcare (23%), travel and tourism (21 percent), and education (20 percent).
  7. Talent is everywhere in a hybrid work world: Nearly half (46 percent) of those surveyed are planning to move to a new location this year, indicating that people no longer have to leave their desk, house or community to expand their career opportunities.

In addition to uncovering what’s at stake with the future of work, the Work Trend Index identifies five strategies for business leaders as they begin to make the necessary shift:

  • Create a plan to empower people for extreme flexibility
  • Invest in space and technology to bridge the physical and digital worlds
  • Combat digital exhaustion from the top
  • Prioritize rebuilding social capital and culture
  • Rethink employee experience to compete for the best and most diverse talent

During this pandemic, we’ve observed a swift acceleration of certain pre-COVID trends. But perhaps one of the most exciting trends is this rise in remote work. As the opportunity is democratized with remote work and talent movement, we’ll see a spread of skills across the country and this is the time for business leaders to take the opportunity to access to different skills and talent not previously available to them.

Karin Kimbrough, Chief Economist, LinkedIn

To view the full findings, visit Microsoft’s Worklab, a digital publication about the future of work.

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